Sunday, January 19, 2014

Notable Links And Notes

* The 100th edition of Carnivalesque, the ancient/medieval/early modern history blog carnival. Having seen it in its origins in 2004 when it was formed as an early modernist carnival, and having been one of its earliest supporters (I hosted the second, fifteenth, and twenty-sixth editions), I find its longevity most impressive and gratifying. The credit for that certainly goes to Sharon Howard, whose ability to organize (and, more than that, keep things organized) in the digital world always amazes me.

This is a great edition, too, with everything from the legal and judicial role of the midwife, to early modern patronage networks, to seventeenth century methods of making fake bacon, to prostitution in medieval Ireland.

* An interesting post on Catholic Integralism at "sancrucensis"

* Tom Angier, Alasdair MacIntyre's Analysis of Tradition

* Benjamin Morison has an article on Sextus Empiricus at the SEP. I found the discussion of the Five Modes particularly interesting, since if Morison's summation of the scholarship is right, then scholars studying Ancient Skepticism are consistently failing to treat the Five Modes as what they explicitly are, means or methods for producing suspension of judgment. Morison correctly identifies some of the problems with this, and gives what I think is the right answer, although in this context he is obviously hampered by the limitations of an encyclopedia article. When we look at one of the Modes, like that of infinite regress or circularity or hypothesis, we should think of it not as an analysis of objects but as a kind of action you can perform on dogmatic arguments to balance, or re-balance, the situation by showing one sort of arbitrariness in the dogmatists's arguing. If you can argue that the dogmatist is not even getting the argument off the ground except by mere force of will, because the argument does begin with a straight stipulation, or somehow assumes what it proves, or would require an infinite prior argument that the dogmatist does not give, then you can take the obvious next step and point out that someone could formulate an argument for the opposing conclusion in exactly the same way.

* I recently quoted from John Watson, so I thought I'd say something about him. Watson was born in Glasgow and studied at Edinburgh under the Caird brothers, who were arguable the major Idealist philosophers of the day, Idealisms of various sorts being the dominant philosophical positions at that time. Watson himself developed a variety of Idealism that he called Speculative Idealism. In 1872 he was appointed to the Chair of Logic, Metaphysics, and Ethics at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and in that position he became perhaps the single most important Canadian philosopher of his day. I would be inclined to say that, despite being relatively rarely read anymore, he is still worthy of the distinction; I think, given the quality of his work, that it is inevitable that he will someday be more widely read. He has a truly remarkable ability to take difficult subjects and discuss them clearly. He has a number of books on Kant (The Philosophy of Kant Explained is an excellent introduction to Kant's thought), several books on philosophy of religion, including his Gifford Lectures, The Interpretation of Religious Experience, and his book on Schelling, Schelling's Transcendental Idealism: A Critical Exposition is the single best book on Schelling's philosophy that I've ever read. He's definitely worthy of study. Fortunately a lot of his otherwise difficult to find books are online; unfortunately, he also wrote a large number of journal articles, many of which are not online. You can some of find his articles in JSTOR; a small number of them, like "The Critical Philosophy and Idealism", are available free even without a JSTOr subscription.

* Christopher Humphrey argues that John Watson is a much greater influence on the Canadian worldview than usually appreciated in John Watson: The Philosopher of Canadian Identity? (PDF)


* Due to the first week of class and fighting a small illness, the 'fortnight' of the Fortnightly Book will be three weeks this time around. I could have pushed it and hurried through, but it just seems better to take the extra week.

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